Outer Hebrides Revivals

ISLAND OF LEWIS, 1824-1835.

“The following narrative relates chiefly to the parish of Uig, and gives a most interesting sketch of a work of divine grace which has been in progress there for the last eleven years, and which is still going on: and it plainly demonstrates that the Gospel is ‘the power of God’ in re­newing the soul of fallen man, for to no other means can the happy results which have taken place there be ascribed.

Very soon after the settlement of the present minister of Uig, an awakening took place amongst the people who had previously been mere formalists. Presently, inquirers came to obtain private instruction, and the demands of the people led to the extension of religious opportunities–such as a lecture on Thursdays, and many regular prayer meetings, which still exist, and are attended with enthusiasm.

When Mr. M’Leod first entered on his office, all the people of a certain age were accustomed to flock to the table of communion, but as he had reason to think that few of them discerned the Lord in the feast, he preached to them carefully for a year before he ventured to celebrate that solemn ordinance. And so much had their light increased, that only a small portion of the old communicants presented themselves, and they with silent tears. It is very remarkable, that in the years he acted as their pastor, he has scarcely been obliged to reject or keep back anyone from this feast of love. Indeed there are many whom their pastor would be glad to admit; who keep back, perhaps from some erroneous understanding of the nature of the ordinance. This is the case in several other Highland parishes. At the communion services of 1828, the island seemed to be moved with one emotion, for 9,000 people flocked to Uig on that occasion. Then, and subsequently, the days and nights from the fast to the thanksgiving days have been occupied in exhortation and prayer by the various ministers and elders, amongst whom the name of John Macdonald of Farintosh, or Urquhart, stands preemi­nent. In 1834 an immense concourse of people attended, following and seeking the truth, from the Isles of Harris and Uist, as they had done for a year or two before. The cautious pastor, speaking of this and similar occasions, describes to a Christian friend the deep impression which was then made, the deepening work, the new and old converts, the liberty of the ministers in preaching, the refreshment of the people in hearing, and the fervent longing for another such season. He also speaks of the knowledge and experience of the people, of the Gospel prospering in Lewis, and of many new converts being brought in during the solemnities

It is not in our power to give much particular detail, the honourable and judicious caution of the faithful pastor, for the present declining to bring into public view the cases of individuals in whose real devotion to God he has much comfort. General results, however, are in the pos­session of the public, and may be thankfully and humbly stated, to the praise of that blessed Spirit who has wrought such changes.

In proof of the minister’s own enjoyment of his scene of labour it is pleasing to state, that he remarks in 1834: ‘Ten winters have I passed here, all wonderfully short, pleasant, and delightful;’ and his teachers are all so much interested in their occupation that they would rather ex­pend their lives in that retired region than remove to wealthier and more southern districts. We hope the faithful records preserved by him who watches for their souls, as one who must give account, will, at no distant day, be published to revive the drooping Church. In the meantime, all that we are about to relate of the general aspect of society there, we mention as detailed by witnesses much inter­ested in stating the truth correctly.

The prayerfulness of the people.—Onegentleman, who annually visits the Lewis, mentions that he has often gone out in the evening to have his spirit refreshed by observing the devotional temper of the people of Uig– and that, at all hours, from eight o’clock at night till one in the morning, he has passed by and overheard persons engaged in prayer. Many a bush formed a shelter for a soul communing with its God; and along the brown ridges of the fallow, dim forms might be discerned, either alone, or two and three together, kneeling and pouring out their wants at the footstool of mercy. The captain of a king’s ship which lay for a considerable time off the island, who, in pursuing his sports, had crossed and recrossed the lands in all directions, bears witness that he never met any intoxication—any pro­fanity, nor indeed a single person engaged in any occupa­tion which might tempt him to wish to shrink from public inspection, except during their frequent retirements for prayer. He mentioned, in particular, his having entered a wood-yard in the town of Stornoway to enquire into the progress of some repairs being made on his boat, when he saw two men retire behind the logs to pray together; and, though their Gaelic was unintelligible to him, their occu­pation, and obvious abstraction from the world, and solemn impression of the divine presence, softened and subdued the man of the sea, though not given to the melting mood. He said, ‘they are extraordinary people here; one cannot but be struck with their honesty, kindness, and sobriety. I am told they make a good deal of whisky for sale. It cannot be for home consumption, for I think I never met a drunk person out of the town. One hears of religion elsewhere, but one sees it here in everything.

We have pleasure in mentioning, as another example of the devotional habits of these people, what afriend who was rowed up the Loch Roag witnessed. The way being long, it is customary to stop to rest and refresh the oars­men. When they had drawn their boat up into the little bay, and ceased from their toil, the men, before they tasted of their food, raised their blue bonnets and united in prayer.

It may be proper to state that the homes of the inhabitants, consisting of but one apartment, furnish no opportunity of retirement; and this explains, in part, the custom of praying in the open air. There is, however, another and more affecting reason. The people want to repair far more frequently to the footstool of mercy than at morning and evening; and as their occupations are in general out of doors, or on the waves, so also are their prayers.

There are five natives of the parish of Uig who were enlisted when a regiment was raised on the island, and having gone with the army to Egypt, lost their sight, and after their return have become acquainted with the doctrines of the Gospel. It is common with them to bless God for having taken away their bodily eyes, since they regard that as one of the instruments in his hand for opening the mental sight, which was before in a state of darkness. Three of them are active fellow-helpers in the extension of Christian truth and consolation. One is a most efficient and zealous elder in the parish of Uig; of another we shall have occasion to relate a curious circum­stance under the head of liberality.

The uprightness of the people.—On occasion of a year of famine, the natives were put to great straits, and in danger of perishing for want. A vessel, laden with meal was driven upon their shores by stress of weather. Did the famine-stricken natives seize on the ship, and law­lessly apply her cargo to the supply of their neceeds? If they had, hunger would have formed for them a plausi­ble excuse. Twenty years before they would doubtless have done so, and held themselves guiltless. But now it was not so. Every portion was accurately weighed or divided; and, as their necessities were so great that they had nothing then to pay, their affectionate minister gave a promissory note for it, knowing well that the excellent lady whose property the lands are, would not suffer him to be impoverished. The people knew this also, but none took advantage of it, all were occupied in economising to the utmost, till one after another they had repaid their debt. Thus they obtained not only the great blessing of necessary, but preserved the still greater blessing of integrity, and a spirit free from covetousness.

It is a rule in this and the other isles of the Hebrides, that when a man meets a stray sheep on the moor he is entitled to carry it home as his own, and obliged tomake an equivalent offering in the collection for the poor on the Sabbath day. After the commencement of the revival in the Lewis, many came to confess to their minister the trouble of conscience they experienced byreason of hav­ing what they called a black sheep in their flocks—some having had them for several winters. The minister alwaysdirected them to make restitution now in the appointed way; and in one season, the sum of £16 was deposited in the plate. The number of sheep annually lost has won­derfully diminished since the commencement of the revival, leading to the conclusion, that the loss imputed to accident arose from dishonesty.

The Christian liberality of the people.—It has long been the custom to make a collection at the Thursday lecture for the most needy people in the district where the lecture is held—and thus, without poor rates, these people support their own poor. For many years they have contributed £13 or upwards to the Gaelic School Society, sometimes £16, and one year, when the Society was in difficulty, the contribution amounted to £20. On transmitting £16, which was the sum collected in Uig in 1830, Mr. M‘Leod remarks—‘Considering the circum­stances of the people, I bear testimony, that their liberality and zeal in this case have cause to provoke very many to similar duties. It was most delightful to see the hoary head and the young scholar of eight or nine years join­ing in this contribution. The will preponderates over our purse, so that we cannot do exactly what we would.’ In 1831, Mr. M‘Leod, while he petitions that a teacher may not be removed from his present station for another year, says, ‘a poor man in that station declared to me lately, that should the directors demand one of his cows, he would readily give one before he would part with the teacher.’

The journal of the superintendent, in stating the exami­nation of one of the schools in Uig, mentions the case of a man, named Norman M`Leod, who is one of the many hundreds of souls on the isle of Lewis that have come out of gross darkness into the sweet and blessed light of the knowledge of God, partly by means of the Gaelic schools and partly by the ministration of the truth. ‘Norman M’Leod is a native of this parish and at an early age enlisted into the army, went abroad, and was in several engagements. Balls, whizzed about him in numbers, but the Lord directed them so that they did him no harm. He was in Egypt, and there lived in drunken­ness and profligacy. There, the Lord took from him his bodily sight. He came home, and on the way was wonderfully preserved. At length he found himself in his native land. Here he found things not as he left them. He found the Bible of God, of which he was totally ignorant, among his friends; and schools amongst them for teaching the knowledge of that blessed book. He found such a work among them with Bibles and schools as was altogether new to him. Nay the very children would correct and reprove him, though an old man. In one of these schools the Bible caught his ear; it sunk into his heart; it there opened an eye that sin had ever kept sealed; it read to him his deeds; it led him to trace his former ways; yea, times, places, and deeds that were quite banished from his memory, were recalled into full view. It re­corded a black catalogue against him, and seemed to fix his portion amongst the damned. He thought his case altogether a hopeless one, but the same Bible brought to his ears tidings of unutterable worth—salvation through a crucified Saviour.’

The superintendent mentions this as a preface to a little story, ‘which, were the honesty and simplicity of the old man known to the reader, would be considered more in­teresting still.’ ‘I began,’ said Norman to his minister, ‘to think how these Gaelic schools came to be planted in my country. I thought on the state of my country when I knew it before in my youth and on the blessed fruits of these schools among my kindred. I contrasted both, and wondered, and thought, and wondered again. Said I, what is this? What a change of things! Blessed God! Blessed Bible! Blessed people that sent these schools! Blessed schools that teach the Bible of God to perishing sinners! Blessed teachers, men of Christ! I thought what would my poor country be, but for the Bible and these schools. I was led into their history, and traced them to a Society in Edinburgh. They engrossed my attention, and I thought them really the schools of Christ. I thought I would pray for them, and so I did; but this, thought I, is not enough. When the Lord took away my eyesight, he gave me a pension; I thought I should give some of that to help his schools. A public collection was proposed by you. I felt happy at this, and prayed that the Lord might open na sporain dhubha (that is, the black purses, an appellation given to the purses of greedy worldlings), and I myself gave two shillings. When a collection was pro­posed this year, I thought that I should give four shillings—double what I gave last. Something within me, said it was enough to give the same as last year—two shillings. I could not decide what to give. An inward voice reminded me that I was a poor blind man, without work, with a family of seven to support, and the money God gave me as a provision for my family should be put to the object for which it was given, which would be most acceptable to Him, etc. ‘I then began to ruminate on the whole process, and at length I thought my opposition might be the suggestion of Satan, to keep me from giving so much to the cause of Christ. Reflecting on this for a while, I felt convinced it was he. I started upon my legs, and lifting up my hand with defiance, I said, Ah! you devil, I will give a score of them. I will give a pound note every year I live, so the farther you follow me, the more you shall lose. From that moment the temptation ceased.’

In 1835, when in addition to all their usual collections, they in one day at church gathered £20 sion, they were favoured with such a successful fishing season, as enabled them to supply all the wants of the winter. The fishing had for many years failed; and the people observed that, by means of this wealth bestowed on them from the sea in 1835, they were amply repaid for all they had been enabled to give. This is another of those facts which we note to the glory of him who is nigh unto all them that fear him. He knoweth what we have need of, and they who scatter in faith shall still in­crease. Let not any of those contributors shrink from this mention of the gracious dealing of God with them. The effort of their liberality was known to those interested in the Church Extension Scheme, and the plentiful fishing was told in the newspapers. May those who see the divine hand give him the praise!

One feature of this revival peculiarly interesting is that souls of all ages have been affected, from the infant of three years to the man verging on a hundred. We present a notice of the youngest, and one of the oldest within our knowledge.

Catherine Smith was a native of Pabay, a small island in Loch Roag, where dwell seven families. From their insular situation and poverty, it has not been in the power of the parents to educate their children; but little Kitty is an example of the truth, that all God’s children are taught of him; for, when only two years old, she was ob­served to lay aside her playthings, and clasp her little hands with reverence during family worship; and at the age of three she was in the habit of repeating the 23rd Psalm, with such relish and fervour, as showed that she looked to the good Shepherd in the character of a lamb of his flock. Her parents taught her also the Lord’s Prayer, which she repeated duly, not only at her stated times, but often in the silence of the night. She frequently pressed the duty of prayer, not only on the other children, but on her parents; and she told her father that, in their absence, when she would ask a blessing on the food left for the children, her brothers and sisters would mock at and beat her for doing so.

The Rev. J. Macdonald of Farintosh, having preached in the parish of Uig, Kitty’s parents were among the many who went to hear him. On their return they mentioned what he had said about the formality of much that is called prayer, and the ignorance of many as to its spirituality; they stated, according to their recollection of the sermon, that many had old useless prayers, and greatly needed to learn to pray with the Spirit. The child observed this, and two days after, said to her mother, ‘it is time for me to give over my old form of prayer.’ Her mother re­plied, ‘neither you nor your prayers are old;’ but she rejoined, ‘I must give them over, and use the prayers which the Lord will teach me.’ After this she withdrew to retired spots for prayer. At one time her younger sister returned without her, and on being asked where she had left Kitty, she said, ‘I left her praying.’ Her father says that he has often sat up in the bed listening to her sweet young voice, presenting this petition with heartfelt earnest­ness, ‘Oh, redeem me from spiritual and eternal death.’

From the remoteness of her dwelling, Kitty had never attended any place of public worship,—but the Sabbath was her delight,—and often would she call her brothers and sisters from the play in which they were thoughtlessly engaged, asking them to join in prayer and other devout exercises, and warning them that if they profaned the day; and disliked God’s worship, they must perish. Her mother, observing the intent gaze with which she looked on a large fire, enquired what she saw in that fire? She replied, ‘I am seeing that my state would be awful if I were to fall into that fire, even though I should be immediately taken out; but woe is me, those who are cast into hell fire will never come out thence.’

Another day, when walking by the side of a precipice and looking down, she exclaimed to her mother, ‘how fearful would our state be if we were to fall down this rock, even though we should be lifted up again; but they that are cast into the depths of hell will never be raised there from.’

One day her mother found her lying on a bench with a sad countenance, and addressed some jocular words to her with a view to cheer her. But the child’s heart was occupied with solemn thoughts of eternity; and instead of smiling she answered gravely, ‘Oh, mother, you are vexing my spirit, I would rather hear you praying.’ In truth, eternity was very near her, and the Spirit of God was preparing her for it. As she got up one morning, she said, ‘Oh, are we not wicked creatures who have put Christ to death?’ Her mother, curious to hear what one so young could say on such a subject, replied, ‘Christ was put to death, Kitty, long before we were born.’ The child, speaking with an understanding heart, said, ‘Mother, I am younger than you, but my sins were crucifying him.’ After a pause, she added, ‘what a wonder that Christ could be put to death when he himself was God, and had power to kill every one, indeed they only put him to death as man, for it is impossible to kill God.’

She used often to repeat passages from Peter Grant’s spiritual songs, such as, ‘It is the blood of the Lamb that precious is.’ When she came to the conclusion of the verse, ‘It is not valued according to its worth,’ she would, in touching terms, lament the sad truth, that His blood is so lightly thought of. Being present when some pious persons spoke of those in Rev. vii, who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, she said, ‘Is it not won­derful that, while other blood stains what is dipped in it, this cleanses and makes white?’

Murdoch M‘Leod, being engaged in the valuable duties of a Scottish elder in the little island of Pabay, Kitty wished to hear him, but from bashfulness was ashamed to enter the house where he was employed in worship; she therefore climbed up to the window and sat there till all was over. Being asked what she had heard, she said she was amazed to hear that Christ offered himself as a Saviour to many in our land who rejected him, and that he was now going to other and more remote quarters to win souls. She then added with the pathos of a full heart, ‘Oh, who knows but he may return here again!’ Soon after she had completed her seventh year, she attacked by that sickness which opened her way to the kingdom of Heaven, and in December, 1829, this lowly child was carried from her poor native island to the blessed region where the redeemed of the Lord find their home; and her name has left a sweet perfume behind it.

From this most satisfactory and authentic account of the blessed state of one of the youngest souls brought to Christ during the revival at the Lewis, which strongly re­minds us of the narrative of a child of equally tender years detailed by Jonathan Edwards, we turn to an aged man named Malcolm M‘Leod. Malcolm had reached the great age of 95 without experiencing repentance unto life. Infirmity had for some time prevented him from attending public worship, and as far as man might judge, his decay­ing faculties were fast shutting up the avenues to the soul and he was less likely than many to become the subject of converting grace. But the Lord saw it not so.

In Octo­ber or November, 1834, his pious daughter brought home notes of a sermon she had been hearing, which were made the means of serious impression to her father, and he is going on in a very promising progress in the divine life. Though he is becoming blind with age, his mental faculties are entire, and the whole man is enlivened, having received a stimulus which arouses his attention, sharpens his under­standing and interests his heart. Instead of dozing away his hours, he now sleeps very little; prayer and praise have also become his principal food. His glad pastor says of him, ‘He is a most interesting sight, caught at the eleventh hour; O how wonderful are the ways of sovereign grace!’

With his usual faithfulness, Mr. M’Leod min­isters to him in private, and lately preached at his bedside on the man who was thirty-eight years at the pool. And at the last season of communion the venerable man was borne by four friends and placed at the table of his Lord, with tears of sorrow for past profanation of that privilege, coursing each other over his furrowed cheeks, and of grateful love for present blessings. The whole multitude were moved, every eye glistening in sweet sympathy with his feelings.

When we hear such things, may we not justly exclaim, ‘what has God wrought!’ In 1835 the Rev. A. M’Leod visited some of the other western isles to ascertain their state, and was much moved to see the isle of Tyree in particular, fortified against Gospel truth, by the opposition of those having influence and the natural ignorance and corruption of the people. His heart has not found rest without suggesting means to ‘assault the ancient garrison,’ so that they may in the Lord’s good time subdue and ‘drive the Canaanite out of the land.’

But that which brings the visit to Tyree under our peculiar notice, is the effect produced on the people of Uig when their pastor again reached home and related to them what he had witnessed. He frequently had occa­sion to observe, that after a short absence, not only was the love of his people increased, but their zeal to run their Christian course also.

On hearing of the deplorable igno­rance and wickedness to be met with in the isle of Tyree, several of Mr. M’Leod’s people, who were then as careless as they, were brought under concern; and when they heard of the religious views entertained by some of these islanders they were convicted with having secretly cher­ished similar opinions, although they were daily favoured with Gospel ordinances.

Since November in particular, there has been much religious impression amongst the people, silent tears, in general, pervading the whole con­gregation. This used to be the case during the long time that worship was held in the field, while the church was building, but had subsided in a degree since they occupied the new church, till this fresh awakening has melted many new hearts and refreshed many who had been previously awakened. It is a fact worthy of observation, that during ten years in which this work of grace has made a steady progress, there has not been one outbreaking of enthu­siasm, or delusion, or false doctrine. Their minister expressed great astonishment and thankfulness, after read­ing Dr. Sprague’s work on American Revivals, that they have been so graciously preserved from the extravagance and error which has, in some few instances broken in to injure the integrity of the work in America.

In considering the state of things in the parish of Uig, we are disposed to rejoice over it more than over any other Scottish Revival. Its calm and deep, and prolonged flow, and its sincerity, may be imputed to some natural and obvious causes. God has vouchsafed to them for ten years the ministrations of a man, whose method is consistent, and now well understood by them. He has been preserved in prayerful humility as their watchman, and saved from, in any way, casting a stumbling-block in their way.

The ministers who have been placed in the neighbouring churches (two of which are government churches that have within a few years been opened on the island) are men who greatly strengthen his hands by preaching not ‘another Gospel’ but the same doctrine with himself, thus avoiding distraction and perplexity.

Though Uig be the most enlivened spot, the revival is by no means limited to that parish. There has been no variety of sects introduc­ing controversy and strife, or withdrawing men’s minds from the essentials that concern their own souls, to fix them on the less weighty forms of church government, or questions of no profit. In this respect, truth has had a fairer entrance to the mind, and prayer has not been hindered. At Arran there seemed to be a tendency in some to yield to bodily excitement and nervous emotions, which their results proved not to have been genuine workings of the renewed heart. In Glenlyon, the spirit of controversy met and drove back the spirit of contrition. At Moulin, the removal of the faithful instructor left the sheep to be scattered. But in Lewis, hitherto the Lord hath upheld and sheltered his flock from such dangers, and the spirit of faith and prayer and a sound mind is preserved amongst them. May it never die away, but from this distant spot of our empire may the blessed wave of salvation swell and rise, till it shall overflow the land, and gather in every county, every parish, and every soul to the kingdom of our God and of his Christ!

Extracted from a work recently published by Oliphant and Son, ‘‘His­tory of Revivals of Religion in the British Isles, especially in. Scot­land”

John Macdonald’s ministry in Lewis (June/July 1827)

Macdonald was on his third trip to the island of St Kilda; he had a passion for the people there and was longing to go.

I left home on Tuesday, the 12th, accompanied by my second son, and met Captain B. at Loch Bracadale, in Skye, on the evening of the 16th; but Corry, being indisposed, could not accompany us. Early on the 17th we set sail for St Kilda, and after being detained that and the following day, partly at Harris and partly at N. Uist, by contrary winds, on the forenoon of the 19th we got fairly out of the Sound of Harris and were scudding our way across the billows of the Atlantic till we had reached within about fifteen miles of St Kilda, when on a sudden, owing to a tremendously heavy gale which sprung up quite ahead of us, we were obliged to put back to Harris.

After remaining some days there, expecting the weather would take a favourable change, we were obliged to abandon the attempt altogether; Captain B. having found that the time allowed him for the expedition had expired. In these circum­stances of disappointment, I thought of taking a trip to the island of Lewis. Mr Macleod, the minister of Uig, having given me a pressing invitation to assist him at the Sacrament of our Lord’s Supper to be administered there on the 24th current, my son and I set out accordingly, staff in hand, on Friday last, and reached the Manse of Uig by 11 o’clock on Saturday forenoon.

Mr Macleod having been in a very weak state of health at the time, and having but few friends to assist him, I preached on Saturday, Sabbath forenoon, and yesterday. The crowd which assembled on the occasion was immense. I suppose the number on Sabbath Day was not under 7,000. The occasion, I trust, was a season of awakening to some and of refreshing to others. The Lord seemed to have favoured us with a shower of divine influences, which had been evidently felt both by saint and sinner.

On Tuesday forenoon my son and I parted with our kind and worthy friends at the Manse of Uig and came about eight or nine miles on our way towards Harris that evening. Soon after our arrival at the house where we took up our night’s quarters, the people of the neighbourhood assembled for sermon, to the number of about 200. I addressed them from Rom. iii. 19, 20. Something of the shower with which the Lord favoured us at Uig seemed to have fallen upon them. Many were in tears, and there was much weeping on the occasion. Oh, it is not difficult to preach to people in these circumstances!

Next day (Wednesday) we travelled partly by water and partly by land, and reached our good old quarters here about eleven in the evening. I had scarcely sat down when I began to mention to Mr Maclellan how vexed I was, and how sadly disappointed, at being obliged to return home then, a second time, without being able to see the poor people of St Kilda. I had not, however, gone through with the one half of my tale, when he interrupted me by saying he felt for my situation, and was disposed, notwithstanding that it was highly inconvenient for him at present to do so (having his cattle to remove to S. Uist to a new farm he had taken there), to accompany me in his own boat to St Kilda; and that if Mr Stewart, Harris’s factor, who had taken his present place into his own hands, would allow these cattle to remain a few days longer on the island, he would set off with me to-morrow, wind and weather serving. I could not but thank him in the warmest terms for having offered his services in so handsome and generous a manner, and told him I would take it upon myself to write the factor on the subject, who, I had no doubt, if it lay at all in his power, would grant my request.

On Wednesday, accordingly, I wrote the factor, and had his answer in course, mentioning most politely that, in con­sideration of the object I had in view, my request was granted. Thus a hope was afforded me of yet seeing St Kilda; and I desired to bless the Lord who had opened up the way and the prospect so far. But we have ever since been prevented from setting out owing to the state of the weather, and must remain as we are till it may become more favourable.

For the last two evenings I preached to the people of this neighbourhood, who assembled at Mr Maclellan’s, and dis­covered great eagerness to hear the word. Indeed, some of them seem to be inquiring what they must do to be saved. I have been sometimes led to think that the Lord has thus drawn me out of my course in order that I might preach the word to perishing souls, whose opportunities otherwise of hearing it, like angel visits, are ‘few and far between.’ ‘I must,’ says Christ, ‘preach the Gospel in other cities also’; and on another occasion, ‘Wilt ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?’

Scalpay, Thursday, July 5.—We are still detained here by contrary winds, but must wait with patience the Lord’s time. On Sabbath last I preached at the Meeting-House of Tarbet for the Rev. J. Bethune. The attendance was considerable, and the people listened with deep attention; several among them were affected to tears. I addressed them from Rom. v. 1 on the important doctrine of justification by faith — and important it is. The discussion of it was refreshing to myself, and, I trust, blessed to the souls of others.

It is dangerous in us ministers either to withhold or dilute the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel; and not less so, to omit preaching to ourselves when we preach to others. I have been employing myself for some evenings past in addressing the people of this neighbourhood, who assembled regularly after work-hours to hear sermon, and who seem to thirst for the word of life. Thus, time is not altogether unprofitably spent. But, Oh! I long to be off for St Kilda. This is taken from John Macdonald’s Journal.

Another account of John Macdonald’s part in the revival of Lewis.

A few months ago there was, if we mistake not, a memor­able centenary of which we did not observe that any great note was taken. We believe that it was on the 24th of June, 1827, that the flood-tide was reached of the great awakening of Uig in Lewis. Dr George Smeaton, who took a special interest in these things, said to a friend who belonged to Uig that the awakening of that parish was the purest religious revival that he knew of in the history of the Church of Scotland, unless the awakening of Arran surpassed it in freedom from wildfire and fanaticism. It was so free from excesses and its fruit was so lasting. No one that knows Dr Kennedy’s Apostle of the North — the life of Dr Macdonald — can fail to have felt impressed by the interest that he took in St Kilda. It was on the occasion of one of his visits to St Kilda that he found his way to Uig. The visit was not a premeditated one. Dr Macdonald having sailed out for the Ocean Rock was carried back to the shores of Harris.

Learning of the Uig Communion, he and his son, who accompanied him, found a guide who brought them through the rough country that lay between them and Uig, and, if I remember aright, they arrived at the Manse of Uig on Saturday forenoon. Of course, in such circumstances their arrival was not expected, and the people did not know of it until the Doctor appeared in the preaching tent on Saturday. It was expected that Mr William Macrae of Barvas would have that day’s service, and they did not look for much from him. It is said that one of the godly Gaelic teachers from Assynt — I think it was Murdo Mackenzie who was at Laxay in Lochs — was so displeased that one like Mr William should have the Saturday service, that without absenting himself from the congregation, he determined that he should not witness what he thought was a tarnishing of the glory. So he sat with his back to the back of the tent. When the psalm was given out for singing, he said to himself, ‘He cannot spoil that on me at any rate.’ Then came the prayer; and as it went on he said, ‘Pity on him who would say that Mr William has no grace.’ The prayer went on and the hearer became more interested. ‘If I have grace myself,’ said he, ‘Mr William has it too.’ The prayer went on still further and still the interest grew, until the hearer said, ‘I would give my oath for it that Mr William has grace.’ This was the beginning of Dr Macdonald’s first service in Uig.

On the following day the Doctor preached again; and he preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. The great congregation was smitten as by a mighty wind and the people were laid prostrate on the earth. There were loud outcries. To secure order the Doctor interrupted his sermon and gave out a few verses to sing. The precentors, for there were two of them, as there still are in Lewis on a Communion Sabbath, were Malcolm Macritchie and Angus Maciver. They sang; but the congregation were overcome with silence. Dr Macdonald stood behind them singing, and it is said that in the congregation of many thousands these were the only voices to be heard. The awakening of Uig, which had been in progress for some time under the ministry of the worthy Alexander Macleod, the minister of the parish, now came to a head. This great day of the Gospel was one of the tokens that John Macdonald’s Master gave to show His approval of His faithful servant, and it was the preaching that was attended by such power and blessing that won for the minister of Ferintosh the name of “The Apostle of the North.”

This is from the Appendices (written in 1928) of a reprint of ‘The Apostle of the North’ by John Kennedy first published in 1866.

The difficulty of writing about revivals in Lewis/Harris after this period is that the only sources I have found are in two recent books and therefore there is the problem of copyright. I will do a short summary. 1860 Both books report in only a line or two that the 1859/60 revival that went across a large part of Scotland also had a major impact on the island. I have seen a very short report elsewhere that the revival was all across the islands, but there seem to be no detailed records of what happened. 1880’s Revival came to the districts of Point, Ness, Back, Carloway, Harris, Stornoway, Bernera and North Uist. 1900-10 Revival came to the districts of Barvas, Bernera, Carloway and Stornoway. A report from a minister in 1910 said that the whole island had been in a state of almost constant revival for ten years 1921-4 Revival came to the districts of Barvas, Ness, Back, Shawbost and Uig. A report in 1923 from the Free Church stated that the Island was generally in revival. I suspect that these were connected to the revival that came along the Moray coast. 1936-9 Revival came to the districts of Barvas, Bernera, Carloway, Ness, North Lochs, Point, and South Lochs. Sometimes there appears to be two revivals 1936-7 and 1938-9 and sometimes only one.

1949-53

Here the revival was fairly universal. It hit the districts of Barvas, Carloway, Ness, Kinloch, Knock, North Lochs, South Lochs, Stornoway, Uig, Point and Harris.

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